Archive for Israeli
RIYADH (Reuters) – A Saudi aid campaign for Palestinians wounded in Israel’s assault on Gaza has gathered over 100 million riyals ($26.7 million) as the government tries to respond to rising popular anger over the offensive.
Saudi state media has carried prominent coverage of three dozen wounded Palestinians brought to the country for treatment in Saudi hospitals and reported a 30 million riyal donation to the state-run aid campaign by King Abdullah.
But this “protest by charity,” as al-Riyadh daily called it, is the only protest to be found in the conservative kingdom, a lynchpin of U.S. policy in the Middle East that has tried to contain the threat of demonstrations.
The absolute monarchy has no elected parliament or legal opposition and public protests are generally banned.
Minority Shi’ite Muslims in eastern Saudi Arabia say dozens were arrested after a street protest days after Israel began its Gaza offensive on December 27 and that police broke up a second one with rubber bullets and batons.
The protests were reported on a Shi’ite website banned in Saudi Arabia, while the government denied they took place, citing a ban on such activities.
Two political reform activists were detained for trying to hold a sit-in in Riyadh two weeks ago, independent group Human Rights First said in a statement sent to news outlets.
“They considered it a legitimate right,” said a colleague who requested his name be withheld for fear of arrest. He said the Interior Ministry refused to grant permission for the sit-in.
Students at King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah say they were denied permission to hold an indoor protest on campus. Continued…
08 January 2009
Israel has been pounding targets in Gaza for nearly two weeks, aiming to destroy the militant Islamic group Hamas’ ability to launch rockets at its territory. As both sides study a ceasefire proposal, Israel has committed to stopping its attacks for a few hours each day and allow humanitarian shipments of food and fuel into the Gaza Strip.
|Smoke from Israeli operations rises near Gaza City, 6 Jan 2009|
Frequently each day, smoke rises over Gaza City. A view from a hilltop overlooking the area has been a daily scene as Israel continues its assault on Hamas targets.
Hamas militants in Gaza have not stopped firing rockets into Israel.
A Kassam rocket exploded just a few meters from a vantage point where foreign journalists — whom Israel is not allowing into Gaza — catch a view of the fighting.
It is Hamas’ firing of these rockets that has triggered Israel’s attacks on Gaza. Israeli officials say their goal is clear.
“The goal of this operation is to stop the launching of rockets upon Israeli civilians and to make sure that the Hamas organization, which is a terrorist organization, will not be able to get any more rockets, Yaakov Livne said. Livne is Foreign Ministry spokesman. “And also to make sure that they will not have the will to act against Israeli civilians.”
One woman, like other Israelis in the town of Sderot, has been living with the terror of rockets from Gaza for years. She says, “My husband is sick. He is bedridden. We have nowhere to go. We cannot move. Where will we go? If, God forbid, a Kassam falls and our house goes, we go with it,” she said.
The assault on Gaza has brought residents of Sderot hope that the rocket attacks will stop.
|Israel has allowed humanitarian aid near the Egyptian border|
But on the Gaza side of the border, Palestinian civilian casualties are mounting as the Israeli offensive against Hamas continues. On Tuesday, Israeli shelling killed some 40 Palestinians at a UN-run school.
Meanwhile, a humanitarian crisis deepens in Gaza as supplies of food, fuel, and medicines dwindle.
For the past few days, Israel has been allowing truckloads of supplies, including disinfectants and food, donated by a number of countries, past a checkpoint near the Egyptian border.
The people of Israel and of Gaza hope more lasting relief, in the form of peace, is on the way.
Israeli mortar rounds blasted a United Nations-run school that had been converted into a refugee shelter for hundreds of Palestinians displaced by the ten-day war in Gaza, killing more than 40 people today.
It was one of three UN schools hit by Israeli ordnance today. The strike against the Fakhora school in the northern town of Jabaliya was the deadliest single attack of an already blood-soaked offensive.
Israeli army officials said that their forces had been targeted by Hamas mortar fire from within the school compound. They named two alleged Hamas militants among the fatalities, Imad Abu Askar and Hassan Abu Askar.
The Israeli army has instructions to attack any position used by Hamas for firing rockets, an Israeli military source told The Times.
The deaths came as the Islamists were pushed back from their usual launch grounds to the east and into the packed metropolis of Gaza City and the surrounding refugee camps.
They pile more pressure on the international community to come up with a swift but durable formula to halt the carnage that has left more than 640 Palestinians dead.
President Sarkozy of France, who is on a peace mission to the region, said that a deal to end Israel’s offensive in Gaza was not far away. Tony Blair, the international community’s envoy, said that a ceasefire could be reached within days but was contingent on finding a way to stop Hamas rearming. His hope that a truce could be struck was echoed by Gordon Brown, who said that the Middle East faced its “darkest moment yet”.
The increasing violence forced Barack Obama, the US President-elect, to break his silence on Gaza. He expressed his “deep concern” at the killing of civilians.
The Fakhora school had been sheltering refugees driven from their homes by heavy fighting.
Screaming relatives tried to revive victims who lay motionless in pools of blood on the pavement outside the school, as cars and ambulances rushed the casualties to Gaza’s already overwhelmed hospitals.
Palestinian medics said at least 42 bodies were pulled from the wreckage of the school that had been providing shelter for about 350 refugees. The UN said it had confirmed at least 30 people were dead and another 55 wounded.
John Ging, the Gaza director for the UN refugee agency, said that the building had been clearly marked with a UN flag and its precise co-ordinates given to the Israeli army to avoid just such a tragedy
By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent – Analysis
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Israel, pursuing ground attacks in the Gaza Strip to inflict maximum damage on Hamas before any ceasefire, has avoided setting over-ambitious goals, making it harder for its Palestinian foe to claim survival as a victory.
Hamas wants to emulate Hezbollah’s robust showing in the 2006 Lebanon war when it held off Israel’s military might for 34 days. But it lacks the strategic depth, arsenal and capabilities of the Shi’ite Islamist guerrillas, security analysts say.
But whatever its military weakness, the Islamist movement will not vanish. It will seek to fight another day, portraying its struggle to Arabs and Muslims as a beacon for resistance.
Israel’s challenge is to convert its military superiority into political and long-term security gains — without getting sucked into gritty street fighting that would risk significant military losses as well as more carnage among hapless civilians.
“The fundamental objective is to change the reality of security in the south,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday, referring to Israeli towns targeted by Hamas rockets.
A senior Israeli military official on Sunday talked of a prolonged operation “to hit Hamas infrastructure as much as we can (and) decrease the number of rockets.”
Israeli leaders have refrained from promising an end to all rocket fire from Gaza or the overthrow of Hamas rule there.
Yezid Sayigh, a Palestinian analyst at Kings College London, said Israeli leaders were avoiding the mistakes of the Lebanon war when grandiose stated objectives to destroy Hezbollah and eliminate its rocket arsenal set them up for failure.
“This doesn’t mean they won’t be flexible,” he said. “They might have a range of objectives. Depending on how things unfold, they could go for the top or the bottom of the range.
However, without a full-scale invasion of Gaza, Israel was tacitly accepting that Hamas would stay in place, Sayigh added.
Israel has said it has no intention to reoccupy the Gaza Strip. It withdrew its troops and settlers in 2005 after a 38-year occupation, but kept tight control of the enclave’s borders. Hamas drove its Fatah rivals out in June 2007.
“The Israelis want to divide Gaza into slices, cut communications between them and then go for search and destroy missions, without really engaging in all-out urban warfare,” said Timur Goksel, a Beirut-based academic and former adviser to U.N. peacekeepers in south Lebanon.
Israeli warplanes and gunships pounded the Gaza Strip for eight days — possibly running out of pre-determined targets — before the ground incursions against Hamas. A six-month ceasefire with the Islamist movement had expired on December 19.
Sayigh said the ground troops could occupy open areas and destroy any Hamas tunnels or weapons caches there, but would have to probe into built-up areas to pursue trained fighters.